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Public vs. Private

July 27, 2011

I’m have mixed feelings about blogging ‘privately’. However, in a minor experiment this term I gave students the choice and let them weigh the options.

Weighing the Options

I reviewed the pros and cons of blogging on a password-protected course web site and on a public, blogger site.

Private – great for sensitive topics, protects you from an unknown future public BUT limits who can read what you write.

Public – can potentially engage with a community of others who read your posts; use a pen name to protect your privacy; need to be wary about posting on sensitive topics or inaccurate information.

1/3 of the students set up a public blog, with the remainder electing to use the blog built into the password protected, course web site.

Harder to Grade?

Not really. I have to log in to the course web site, but I do that often enough anyway and then just click over to the blog roll on my blog to view the others.  I don’t see any differences in grades by public or private blogs either.

Learning Curve

There has been one and it is steeper for some students than for others. Students have had to learn how to embed links and to write with a less ‘formal’ blog style. Don’t upload academic papers; avoid citations like you might include in a research paper; instead use hyper-links to make your points!


The students got to chose what was comfortable for them and the option presents me with minimal additional work. A win all around.

note: images are royalty free


My Teaching Halo

July 13, 2011

I FOUND my teaching halo!

Do you see it?

The pressure of teaching wanna-be teachers led to its discovery. Teaching teachers makes me reflect if I’m doing (or not) what ‘expert’ teachers do when they reach deeply into their students’ minds to build motivate them to learn. Who are those expert people anyway?

I found it . . .

on out on the limb of the teaching tree when I climbed out there to give OPTIONS (gasp) for several assignments, including a choice on deciding if their blog should be private (in the course management system) or public.

It formed instantly . . . from SELF DOUBT

Then the self-doubt set in…was this choice, with only 2 options, going to be too much? Would everyone go with the private option because it was easier? I made both cases equally well. Announce your thoughts to the world (you might get followers and wouldn’t that be grand!) – go public. Investigate sensitive topics (race, violence, bad teaching) and protect yourself from an unknown, future public – go private!  Will I make it impossible to grade because of multiple locations? Why do I have so many questions – it is just a blog assignment?! The questions circled around my head and created – you guessed it – the halo.

The Teaching Wand

The halo has settled safely around my head as questions continue circling.

Will such a small choice make them more interested and motivated to learn?

Will the shackles on learning be cast off and they will write with abandon?

I remain haunted by this image of an expert teacher with some grand, teaching flourish and wave of the hand or facile wording of a sentence, dripping with meaning…and voila – student motivation. Maybe I will get the magic teaching wand in the not too distant future but meanwhile I’ll hold on to my halo, even it is a bit askew.

My students didn’t get the memo: Psychology is Sanitized

March 17, 2010

Sanitized Environment

Classrooms are well organized, with chairs, tables, and white boards. In these rooms students and professors gather and learning takes place through reading, conversation, lectures, and questions. We, usually, take turns talking. We think big thoughts. We come to conclusions. It is neat and tidy. It is sanitized.

Science is objective. Real. Error is eliminated or reduced.

But as I read my student’s blogs I find that psychology is passion, it is their life experience, it is a way of viewing the world around them. They disclose information, they share, they explore, they wonder out loud. It is real, real messy, real psychology. It makes me a bit uncomfortable sometimes, it is not controlled, it is not sanitized…

Blogging lets me peak open the door, just a little, to look inside their ‘room’ and see how to connect psychology with what they care about. It is messy in there. I get why my parents were always telling me to clean up my room now. I thought my students didn’t get the memo, but maybe it was me.

My problem? Or your problem?

March 4, 2010

I LOVED reading the students’ blogs this week. They are writing about interesting topics with passion and they have evidence to support their opinions. What else could a professor want?

They are writing about problems and who really owns that problem. Community Psychology and Blogging. I feel empowered and I think they are too.

Glutton for Punishment

February 16, 2010

Yep, I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m still too new to teaching to be beaten down by poor writing, lack of ability to construct critical positions, or fear of technology on the part of my students. Well, I hope I maintain my belief in my students’ ability to learn all of these skills even after I am a weary, well-worn and cynical professor…

So they are blogging again – this time about community and social problems. Ends up that technological literacy is not just my good idea, but is one of the suggested 10 learning outcomes of a psychology undergraduate education by the American Psychological Association. I’ll be reading and learning about homelessness, illegal immigration, homosexuality, sexism, racism and other forms of oppression if the first blogs are any indication….

Think, write, action….

Apparently not (coerced) or 6 reasons I’m a FAILURE

September 17, 2009

Hmph, well all of my students were not coerced in posting their blog. I wonder to myself, why is that? They seem responsible and interested in their education. What might be other reasons and do they have to do with me?

1. I have yet to prepare them properly for the novel assignment.

2. I did not conquer their fear of the world wide web and so they put it off. But do think they I won’t notice?

3. My class is not the most important activity in which they engage. Really?

4. I have lousy instructional assignments and my students are now protesting at the Dean’s office as I write. They have yet to learn about academic freedom and my right to select assignments (I failed to inform them properly).

5. I misjudged their responsible interest (say it isn’t so!).

6. I failed to realize that undergraduates are different creatures than are graduate students (who I had do this first).

I will try to do better….


August 27, 2009

Here I am doing it again to another group of students. They really have no choice about it and I tried to make it exciting (and it is) but they looked at me with that look you gave your mother or father, you know, when you were a child and they made you eat your peas? You knew it was good for you but you didn’t want to look happy about it.

Most of the students had not even read a blog before and no one had blogged. One student confessed, on his way out, that a friend had been trying to get him to blog….and the unstated was that only the psycho professor could really make him do it. Or maybe I misread that and he was glad to tell his friend he would now be blogging.

What’s worse is (well to THEM the students, not to ME!)  the class is all about terrorism. Yep, one even started his blog – it is called Coercion Blog and he hopes to not end up on a watch list.  I probably already am on one – I’ve been to the NSA, War Room, FBI, and had too many students use me as a reference for their CIA, FBI, SBI, Secret Service jobs.  Seriously, one of my former students is actually in the Secret Service. Which really is a funny name if you think about – uh, secret, and you have a Web site?

My students don’t yet know about my undaunted overconfidence. I even offered to talk one down off the ledge if the thought of blogging was going to make her drop the class. They just don’t realize how much FUN it is going to be.